Michelin Stars: The Madness of Perfection?
“When it comes to cooking Michelin has been generally a really good arbiter. But when it comes to creating restaurants you want to go to it hasn’t got a clue!”
Restaurateur Jeremy King – Formerly of the Ivy and La Caprice, London
Food writer William Sitwell looks at the concept behind Michelin stars and asks how relevant really is it. How many people who go out to eat really want to experience the “poncy” style of service? And does the path to a Michelin star actually lead to obsession? And what value does it bring to the customer and the chef?
For the first time ever, he gets into the chef’s whites to experience a day in the life of Chef Marcus Wareing‘s 2 Michelin starred kitchen. The eponymous named Marcus Wareing at the Berkley.
In the kitchen, William does the prep work of a kitchen porter, slicing chestnuts and picking perfect baby coriander leaves with which to garnish Marcus’s immaculately presented dishes. Everything must be perfect in case the recipent of the dish turns out to be a Michelin inspector.
Every dish which goes out from the kitchen is personally inspected by either Marcus or his head chef Alan to make sure that each plate looks exactly as it should.
Marcus explains how in although we know them as stars, those little symbols in the Michelin guide are known in France as macaroons, not stars!
Clearly having a Michelin star is good for business, but does it put too much pressure on Chefs to be perfect?
Marco Pierre White thinks not. Famously he held 3 Michelin stars for 5 years before opting out of the system. He claims that chefs put pressure on themselves to get Michelin stars. He also has the somewhat controversial view that stars don’t mean very much nowadays. He claims they are now dished out like confetti, and once Michelin started to give out stars to chefs who didn’t actually cook themselves, then it became a publicity stunt to help them sell their guide.
Raymond Blanc is also of the opinion that young chefs should not pursue Michelin stars. He says they should strive for excellence and build a sustainable business with happy staff and returning customers. Otherwise the simple pursuit of a star is a very expensive business and the loss of that star can destroy the restaurant.
Is this “Michelin Madness” really worthwhile?